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Strangers at the Feast

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,157 ratings  ·  280 reviews
On Thanksgiving Day 2007, as the country teeters on the brink of a recession, three generations of the Olson family gather. Eleanor and Gavin worry about their daughter, a single academic, and her newly adopted Indian child, and about their son, who has been caught in the imploding real-estate bubble. While the Olsons navigate the tensions and secrets that mark their relat ...more
Hardcover, 334 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Scribner (first published July 16th 2010)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,157 ratings  ·  280 reviews

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Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-audible
What is it about Thanksgiving that makes it such a juicy setting for a dysfunctional family gathering? This was good and I plan to write a review later...
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Superb read for Thanksgiving or family gatherings! Ever hear somebody tell you how distant their ex is, how marrying said person - in retrospect - was just insane? And then you meet this ex at some function or other and find said dullard charming, kind, intelligent? Your perspective is entirely different!

Families are like that too sometimes, where one member has strong opinions about another, but truly does not know the loved one and has judged him or her far differently than others would.

switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
American mythologizing of Thanksgiving is still perpetuated--the idea of goodwill between Indigenous Americans and European "pilgrims" and the lie that America was founded on cooperation and integrity rather than eminent domain and genocide. The myth of the first Thanksgiving shapes and parallels the thematic core of Vanderbes' new novel, a scathing, biting, and bitterly droll portrait of a suburban family that takes place on Thanksgiving 2007. It is no coincidence that Stamford Connecticut, the ...more
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
As I pulled the book off the shelf to read a couple weeks ago I was thrilled to open it up & discover that it’s a novel set on Thanksgiving day. How timely as I have been thinking of turkey and cranberries with the cool change of weather.
We are introduced to the individual characters by their own chapters and it follows this theme as you read introducing new players as needed. I love this style of writing as you feel you are privy to all the motivations, fears and thoughts of the individuals. D
Mary Verdick
Sep 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly sad, but funny too!

The Olson family has gathered together for Thanksgiving dinner at daughter's Ginny's house, a college professor who has just adopted a mute 7-year-old girl from India. Her brother Douglas has overextended himself in the real estate market and since the bubble burst is almost broke, much to the dismay and scorn of his wife Denise. Of course their three young children are present, and the grandparents, Eleanor and Gavin, who love each other but have little in common.
Mar 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book had many echoes for me, preceded as it is by a massive literature of family interactions. Perhaps it is this week's cover of Time magazine carrying the picture of Jonathan Franzen, but The Corrections comes to mind, as does Ian McEwan's Saturday. Strangers is an in-depth look at an ordinary family, together on a holiday. The action takes place in one day, Thanksgiving, which has got to be one of the more stressful vacations ever invented for modern man. The holiday comes in the mid ...more
Jacki Leach
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Any book dealing with the housing crisis would not interest most financially-depressed Americans. When I received a copy of 'Strangers at the Feast' by Jennifer Vanderbes, and read the notes, I wasn't sure that I would find anything of interest. Depression, most likely.

But the minute I broke down and opened the book, I couldn't put it down.

The Olson family is celebrating Thanksgiving 2007. Gavin, the patriarch, is a Vietnam war vet who finds solace in his silence. His wife, Eleanor, reminded me
Mar Preston
Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book pulled together so many themes and characters exemplifying contemporary American life that I admire the author. It's Thanksgiving Day in upscale Connecticut, and two generations of the family, divided by terrible secrets, come together to share the holiday. A second set of characters are unwelcome guests, and one of the family empties a gun into the intruders.

Anyone of the family could have done it, but it's not the one you expect.

The richness lies in the characters, the father a repr
Aug 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Let me say it straight out: this book is astoundingly GOOD. Page-turning, jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud, cry-into-your-sleeves, gasp-with-recognition GOOD. It takes on nothing less than the theme of what is wrong with America today and it does it very well.

The action takes place over one Thanksgiving day with lots of flashbacks. There hasn’t been a family like the Olsons since Zoe Heller’s The Believers – with a dollop of the movie Pieces of April blended in. This family DEFINES dysfunction.

Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the stories that were told about the past and personalities of this slightly nut-so family that I'm almost everyone could relate to a member of their own family. Eleanor and Gavin are the mother and father of Ginny and Douglas. Eleanor is and overbearing mother and Gavin is a Vietnam vet who got his kneecap busted up at the start of his arrival in the war. The injury probably saved his life because he had to go on desk duty but he is very angry all the years later that his "manhood" wa ...more
Erin Shull
Jul 12, 2011 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this novel more than I actually did, and ultimately found it very disappointing. I found the characters that Vanderbes created to be initially interesting, and thought her foreshadowing and tension building to be enough to keep me turning the pages, but then grew irritated at the two dimensional characters, who she never fully rounds out beyond stereotypes (the academic do-gooder, the traditional babyboomer housewife, the ambitious and greedy son, the poor but well-meaning black ...more
Stephen Kiernan
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is eerily prescient about the present day. The plot is simple enough, following a semi-functional New York family through Thanksgiving day in 2007. Yet it contains the distant rumbles of economic collapse, the offhandedness of privilege, and in an unexpected (though fully prepared) act of violence, it reveals the underbelly of race relations in America in ways frighteningly similar to the unarmed boy recently shot to death by a man not charged in the incident. If fiction is a means of ...more
Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I am not sure I would have picked it up to read on my own. I received it from Simon and Schuster as a giveaway and I am really grateful for that opportunity because I really enjoyed the book.
The author skillfully shines a light on so many issues facing society today. Throughout the book, the author’s use of comments by the characters, to foreshadow the last scene, is very effective. In one day, many of their insecurities and fears are revealed, almost casually, and often with humor. Without bein
Oct 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am in awe of this book. Every once in awhile a book comes along that just takes my breath away and this book did that for me.

A horrific crime occurs on Thanksgiving Day as 3 families gather together. The families include parents of 2 grown children and their children. BUT, take note, this plot doesn’t even begin to describe all the sub-stories that unfold in these family'a lives. It becomes much, much deeper than that.

Listed below are some quotes which struck me and were taken from different
Sep 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
A family gathers for Thanksgiving, but events put them on track for disaster. Ms. Vanderbes is a brilliant writer, but this book doesn’t showcase her talent. The characters are stereotypes, but not particularly good stereotypes. The book is ninety percent set up with anvil-level foreshadowing (one review referred to the book as being served an appetizer when promised a feast). There is a brilliant idea for a novel contained within these pages, and Ms. Vanderbes possesses the skill to make such a ...more
Aug 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I liked how each character took turns telling about themselves and they where true to thierselves.
how real they were. i can see so many pieces of people that i know in them.
I agree with some of the characters and disagree withsome. I thing the way soldiers were treated durning and after vetnam a disgrace. those who spit on them are the blighted ones. I am a mix of genny and her mom.
I wanted to know more about the characters what happened next to them.
I would have liked a different ending. Happy
A comic but tragic story about a Thanksgiving dinner that goes wrong on so many levels. The complex character development gave me a strong affinity to these people; however, I thought some information (i.e. Douglas's ex-girlfriend and Gavin's extramarital affairs) lacked purpose. I loved the surprise ending - a twist that I didn't see coming! This was my first audiobook, so I was worried about how I would take to it, but the narration by Renee Raudman was quite pleasing. Her use of different voi ...more
Lisa Lesyshen
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was a total surprise that I loved this book. It starts out as a simple straight forward book however every chapter creates a new twist and new layer. A great great book!
Nov 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Most of the action takes place on Thanksgiving Day, so this was a fun November read for me.
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Olson family gathers to celebrate the Thanksgiving holidays at the home of one of its members, Ginny. Ginny has recently made some drastic changes to her life, adopting a daughter from India, buying a house and her decision to host the family for this event is surprising but seems to be in line with this new phase of her life. Her brother Douglas and his wife Denise are drowning in severe debt as a result of Douglas's over speculation in the real estate market that has now gone bust. So whil ...more
Emily Crowe
Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good. Because I seem to have gotten myself not only on an advance access reading list from Simon & Schuster, but on their mailing list for finished copies of books, too. About a month ago I received a copy of Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes from the good folks at Scribner, along with a copy of The Hundred Foot Journey (reviewed here), which makes me suspect that it might be a mailing list catering to bookclubs.

I barely
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Strangers at the Feast tells the story of the dysfunctional Olson family as they gather for Thanksgiving dinner, 2007. Little does the family have reason to suspect that their day will end in tragedy. The three generations of family members consists of Gavin, quiet, aloof, Vietnam Vet; his wife Eleanor ; their two children Douglas, (married to Denise with three children). Gavin and Eleanor's single daughter Ginger, an intellectual working in academia, is hosting the dinner in her newly acquired, ...more
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-sent-to-me
The Short of It:

Just like a runaway train, Strangers at the Feast picks up speed and hurls you toward its dramatic conclusion. You won’t be able to put this one down.

The Rest of It:

It’s Thanksgiving day. Ginny, has invited her parents, her brother, his wife and their three kids to enjoy dinner in her new home. Ginny, single and an academic sort at that, is not well-versed in the kitchen, but is excited about hosting such an important meal. The others are excited about the prospect of seeing he
Aug 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Diane by: Oprah August Issue - the Reading Room
I wrestled with 3 to 4 stars for this book. Let's say 3.5. The synopsis given when you click on the book here on GR is very accurate.

The Olson family -- Eleanor and Gavin (the early 60 year old parents) and their grown children (Ginny-single/liberal/guardian of a mute girl she brings home from India; and Doug and his wife, Denise, and their 3 children...very well off family, caught up in the 9-11 economic bust) gather at Ginny's newly purchased house (a true "fixer"), but since her oven fails in
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Strangers at the Feast is set on Thanksgiving Day in Connecticut in 2007. The story is told from many points of view, from different members of the Olsen family coming together for the holiday, and from a young black man who attempts to fight back against those who have hurt him.

The Olsen family is filled with dysfunction: past hurts, insecutities, loneliness, financial difficulties, the list goes on. The character that really stood out for me was Eleanor, the grandmother. For some reason her
Aug 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
A family gathers for Thanksgiving, all having their own problems, that they are caught up in. At the same time there is a family who lost their home to one of the Olsen family's greed to wipe everyone on a block out of their homes, so that his company can build a building on their land. He has one home in particular condemned for blight and the family loses the home they have lived in for generations. Kuji and his friend are out on Thanksgiving hoping to make a point to the Olsen family. The two ...more
Carla Ford
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Reading it was like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle, where every piece that you put in it's place brought the picture just a little more into focus. By the end of the book, you had a complete picture, and realized that every piece was of equal importance, each piece contributed to the whole, and the picture would not have been complete if any of the pieces were missing. I think my mouth fell open about one third of the way through the book, and hung that way until long ...more
Mar 21, 2011 added it
This was the first book we read for the new book club I'm in (one of two!) We had all heard good things about this one . . . and we were all disappointed. On the surface this seems like it would really be up my alley (I love books about families in crisis!), but unfortunately the characters were so unlikeable that I couldn't get into it. And beyond unlikeable, I just didn't find them that interesting--there was the mother who was fragile and old-fashioned, the son who lost his money in the real ...more
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really, really good read.

Briefly this is about a day in the life of the Olson family. Thanksgiving Day, 2007.

We learn all about Eleanor and Gavin, who are now concerned about their single daughter, an academic who has just bought at house and adopted an Indian girl of 7. And about their son, who is married with 3 children, but who is caught in the imploding real estate bubble.

Meanwhile 2 black teenagers set out from the nearby housing projects on a mysterious job.

Tragic events bring the 2 worlds
Mary Ronan Drew
Mar 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Here's the description from On Thanksgiving Day 2007, as the country teeters on the brink of a recession, three generations of the Olson family gather. Eleanor and Gavin worry about their daughter, a single academic, and her newly adopted Indian child, and about their son, who has been caught in the imploding real-estate bubble. While the Olsons navigate the tensions and secrets that mark their relationships, seventeen-year-old Kijo Jackson and his best friend Spider set out from the ...more
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Jennifer Vanderbes received her B.A. in English Literature from Yale and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her first novel, Easter Island, was named a "best book of 2003" by the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor and was translated into 16 languages. Her second novel, Strangers at the Feast, was called "a thriller that also raises
large and haunting question

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Psychological thrillers that will leave your head spinning. Cold cases, detectives hot on a trail, unreliable narrators, and a dash of poison...
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“The early settlers amazed her--they had pluck, they led lives of sweaty drama. Theirs was a world of corsets and whipping posts and indentured servitude. People worked the land and died in ungainly ways. Modern life, in comparison, seemed a cinch.” 2 likes
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